AsianScientist (Feb. 10, 2012) – Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) have been discovered for the first time in West Kalimantan, a part of Indonesian Borneo best known for its dense tropical forests and rich wildlife.
Irrawaddy dolphins are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but in some areas – including the Mekong River, the Ayeyawardi River, and the Mahakam River in East Kalimantan – the species is listed as critically endangered.
With a global population of around 6,000 individuals, Irrawaddy dolphins are found in many of Southeast Asia’s estuaries and mangrove areas.
The presence of Irrawaddy dolphins in West Kalimantan waters was previously unknown. WWF-Indonesia and the Regional Office for Marine, Coastal & Resources Management Pontianak (BPSPL) found the rare dolphins while conducting a study in the narrow straits and coastal waters of West Borneo.
According to their study, protecting the dolphins’ habitat is a main priority. Unfortunately, the continued growth of charcoal production in West Kalimantan, increased boat traffic in waterways, and forest conversion are threatening the area’s mangrove forests, a key dolphin habitat.
Companies have been advised by WWF to apply sustainable practices to their businesses, and to help avoid the destruction of mangrove forests by carefully monitoring their wood supply.
“Conservation of forests in the Heart of Borneo is considered critical to ensure the proper protection of the Irrawaddy dolphins’ fresh water habitat in the lower reaches of the river,” said Tri Agung Rooswiadji, WWF-Indonesia’s Fresh Water Conservation Program Coordinator.
“The dolphin survey we conducted in Kubu Raya and Kayong Utara waters is only a preliminary survey, and we are hoping to continue studying the species in other rivers in the upper parts such as in Kapuas, Sejenuh and Mendawa,” he said.
BPSPL is currently working with WWF-Indonesia and other relevant partners to monitor the dolphins as well as to identify other actions to enhance species protection.
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